The Basics of Computer Hardware

In 1975, the personal computer revolution started creating jobs for computer technicians. 1985 saw the great expansion of the personal computer with the first shipment of Windows for PCs. The next explosion in personal computing came in 1995 with the introduction of the World Wide Web to the public. The computer information systems field continues to grow to this day. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment of computer support specialists is projected to grow 10 percent from 2016 to 2026.

In 2016, 269 million personal computers were sold in the US, Wikipedia. The number of tablets is forecasted to reach 185 million by 2020. That equates to, at a minimum, one computer or tablet per employee in most every company in the US. Who is going to maintain all of these computers and tablets? Interested in learning more about computer hardware as a computer technician? The following blog article focuses on the personal computer, microprocessor, storage devices, and peripherals.

Personal Computer System

A personal computer (PC) is a multi-purpose computer that includes peripherals, memory storage, hard disk drive, sound card, modem and/or network card.

System Unit – holds the computer’s main circuit board, microprocessor, memory, power supply and storage device.

Hard Disk Drive – the main storage on a personal computer system.

Optical Drive – a storage device that works with CDs and DVDs.

External Storage – includes external hard disks, USB flash drives and memory cards.

Keyboard – the primary input device, typically a QWERTY interface with 10-key accompaniment.

Mouse – an input device designed to manipulate on-screen graphical objects and controls.

Printer – an output device that produces computer-generated text or graphical images on paper.

Sound System – output of digital music, recorded speech and other sound effects. The personal computer system uses a sound card that sends signals to the speakers.

Display System – includes a graphics card that converts raw digital data into images to display on the monitor. Monitors use display technologies including LCDs and LEDs.

Network and Internet Access – built-in circuitry for wired or wireless connections to a computer network. Most internet connections require a modem.

A personal computer system can be upgraded to make it more powerful. The computer’s processor, internal hard disk drive, graphics card, and CD/DVD drive can be replaced. Memory, external hard drives, a second display screen and USB ports can be added.


A microprocessor or CPU is an integrated circuit designed to process instructions. The computer can have a single microprocessor or multi-core processor. More cores means faster performance.

Random Access Memory (RAM) – RAM is a temporary holding area for data, application program instructions and the operating system.

Read-Only Memory (ROM) – a type of memory that holds the computer’s startup routine.

EEPROM – Electrically Erasable Programmable Read-Only Memory; stores the basic hardware settings without the need for power to the computer.

Storage Devices

The basic components of a data storage system include a storage medium and storage device. The storage medium is the disk, CD or DVD that contains data. The storage device is the mechanical apparatus that records and retrieves data from a storage medium.


Input devices consist of keyboards, touch-sensitive screens, a mouse, scanners, digital cameras, and a microphone. Output devices include printers, monitor and digital cameras.

Pointing Device – use of a mouse, trackball, or joystick to allow the user to manipulate an on-screen pointer and screen-based graphical controls.

Display Devices – displays text and images. Image quality depends on screen size, dot pitch, width of viewing angle, response rate, resolution and color depth.

  • Dot pitch – a measure of image clarity, a smaller dot pitch translates into a crisper image.
  • Width of viewing angle – indicates how far to the side a user can still clearly see the screen image.
  • Response rate – the time it takes for one pixel to change from black to white and then back to black.
  • Resolution – the number of horizontal and vertical pixels that are displayed on the screen.
  • Color depth – the number of colors a monitor can display.

Printing Devices – printers typically use either an ink jet or laser technology. Printers differ in resolution, speed, duty cycle, operating costs, two-sided printing and memory.

Does learning about Computer Hardware interest you? Are you looking for a rewarding career at a as a help desk specialist or computer technician? The Computer Information Systems/Business Administration diploma program,¬†at Gwinnett College’s Lilburn, GA campus, is designed to train the college graduate to seek an entry-level career in office management utilizing accounting and computer information systems.

Computer Information Systems/Business Administration graduates from this program can also transfer their school credits directly into the Associate of Science Degree in Business, Computer Information concentration, program. They will need to complete four additional courses to obtain their associate degree.

Contact us today to learn more about becoming a computer help desk specialist or computer technician.